Fashionista Flashback: Normal American Girl Edition

Happy Independence Day!

Later today, I’ll be going to a Twins vs. Yankees game, enjoying a dinner of pizza and beer, and watching fireworks. What could be more American than that, you ask?

How about…THIS?

Sugar Beet days

It’s possible that you would like some context.

I am from a small town in southwestern Minnesota, and like all small towns in southwestern Minnesota, mine celebrates its heritage every summer. We have a parade, a street dance, flea markets and games. We used to have a Junior Miss pageant that was exactly like the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous, minus the murdering, but sadly no longer.

In DDG, the theme of the pageant always incorporates America (“Amer-I CAN! Proud to be an American! Buy American!”). In my hometown, the theme of the entire celebration incorporates our town’s key crop: the Sugar Beet.

Look, anything can seem normal when you’re raised with it, including a week of celebrating beets, okay?

The pageant was always my favorite part as a kid.  But my second favorite part was the kiddie parade.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: all the kids in town are woken up early, dressed in costumes made by their aunts or mothers, and encouraged to walk down Main Street carrying signs incorporating puns on the word beet. Then they turn around and walk back up Main Street because it’s only about a block long. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes and is a general confusion of cuteness and tantrums.

Pictured above: the “prize winners” of the Sugar Beet Days kiddie parade in about 1989. My brother and I are on the far right, dressed as Polyester Captain America and a Precious Moments figurine. No, actually, according to our sign, which we must have ditched at the end of the street, we were “Uncle Sam and the Pioneer Spirit.”

It actually just occurred to me this morning that the Pioneer Spirit might not be a real character. Google seems to think the Pioneer Spirit is a bunch of buffaloes, not a four-year-old in an over-sized bonnet and what appear to be tap shoes.  My mom made it up just to give me a reason to walk down the street with my brother.  Again – anything can seem normal when you’re raised with it.

Anyway, I think we came in second that year, between Mr. and Mrs. Sugar Beet (who still haunt my dreams) and the three little pigs (who were the other kids who showed up).

The kiddie parade still goes on when there are enough kids to participate. The Uncle Sam costume (made by my aunt) actually made its third appearance a few years ago on another generation of my family and once again took home a prize.

What I’m trying to say is that my hometown is weird in the way that all small American towns are weird. Nothing ever really changes, and that’s comforting. I biked every street within that one-square mile. I swam in that town pool a thousand times, then walked to the Malt Shoppe or the pharmacy to spend my twenty-five cents on candy. I didn’t worry about politics, or war, or whether or not I’d be allowed back in to school in the fall because I was a girl. And of course my school would still be there, and no one would stop me from going to church every week, and there would always be food in the fridge and I’d always be safe and happy and free.

Anything can seem normal when you’re raised with it.

Happy birthday, America. You are weird and flawed and my home. Thank you for my happy childhood.

Well, mostly happy childhood. I think I was pretty over the parade scene by this point.

I will end you

Advertisements

#Winterfest Dos and Don’ts (From Me to Future Me)

I am a lucky girl. I love great beer – and I happen to live in the Twin Cities, where the craft brew culture is booming. I also love great events – and this past weekend, I got to go to one of the year’s best: Winterfest.

This was actually my second year at the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild event, and both years have been great. And, well, learning experiences. I am already hoping to go again next year, so this is basically a list for Future Rachel. Still, you may as well reap the benefits of my beer-tasting wisdom, internet strangers.

So it begins.

So it begins.

Do obsessively hit “page refresh” for ten minutes before the tickets go on sale. The event is capped at 750 people, and sells out in seconds. I’ve managed to get tickets for two years in a row using this highly scientific method, and also dark magic.

Do eat before you go. Yes, they have food at the event, and it’s included in the price. I bet it’s pretty great, too. Last year I think I ate some cheese; this year I completely missed out on all of it. Whatever you do, don’t go to a 3-hour all-you-can-drink craft beer event on an empty stomach. Rookie mistake (that you only make once).

Do gloat about this event taking place in St. Paul, the right side of the river.

Do your research. Look through the program and have a top ten list of brews you do not want to miss, and find those first. Things do run out, plus you want to try the snobbiest stuff (technical term) before your tongue goes numb. Also, if I hadn’t looked over the program, I might have totally missed the Sugar Shack Maple Stout from Third Street Brewhouse. It’s made with Saint John’s Maple Syrup from the Arboretum where I used to work. I really like it, but with a pedigree like that, how could I not?

This has nothing to do with beer, but any time I bring up my time at the Arb I like to remind people I did this once.

Look, I know this has nothing to do with beer, but this is the most badass picture of me in existence and it was taken at the Arboretum, so I’m sharing it again.

Do bring your ID, a pen, and your tallest friend. The ID is obvious. The pen is for taking notes and/or writing your phone number on strangers’ hands. And the tall friend is easy to find in a crowd, and can also find you if/when you wander off.

Do dress appropriately. For some that means warm boots and gloves. For others an outfit you can easily sleep in on your friend’s couch. For me that means both.

Do find the Excelsior Brewing Company booth and take pictures of the staff; when you find them on your camera the next morning, understand that you will be left with more questions than answers:

They just posed like this, without any direction. Naturals.

Probably this was towards the end of the night.

Don’t be embarrassed when you spot someone you met and talked to for half an hour at a past a beer event and you can’t remember her name. She doesn’t remember your name, either.

Don’t force yourself to finish anything you don’t like. Give it to your tall friend who seems to like all the things you don’t (another reason you brought him), and find something you like better.

Don’t be afraid to not love the things everyone else loves. There may be a time and a place for me to drink Barley John’s award-winning Dark Knight Returns; that time was not two hours into the event, after an uncertain number of other pours, when I knew it was a really heavy hitter. Some other night, DKR.

Don’t live-tweet the event.

livetweet

MNBeer.com knows what I’m talking about, or wants me to shut up.

Do make an active effort to find and drink water.

Don’t get upset when one of your brewer friends makes fun of you for drinking water. He’s working and therefore sober, and definitely laughing at your slightly slurry, indignant response.

Do make friends. It’s fine if you don’t pay attention to her last name. You’ll think of something.

Legit beer friends.

The truest form of friendship.

Do have a safe drive lined up. Even if you cancel on your original safe drive to catch a ride with your new friend, Stephanie Beer and her boyfriend, Sober Dan.

Don’t go to the Onion afterwards. Just don’t. You hate that place. It never ends well for you there.

....Best laid plans...

….Best laid plans…

Do expect your best friend to text back: “UGH, RACHEL, you hate that place!” because she knows you.

Don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning and think, “I’ve felt better.” But since you remembered to eat before the event, and drank plenty of water, you’re actually in pretty good shape and will be up as soon as you have some coffee.

So there you have it. That’s how you semi-sensibly enjoy one of the best beer events in the Twin Cities.

(But seriously, don’t go to the Onion next year.)

How Lisa Kudrow proved I’m related to Madonna and Ellen (and other genealogy adventures)

I am a genealogy geek. I even did the Ancestry.com DNA test a few months ago, which essentially means I paid some money to spit into a tube so a computer could tell me “You are a white lady.”

Rachel's DNA results

But 2% of me is inscrutable.

I am obviously Irish. I’m also a Minnesotan, which probably explains that Scandinavian and Finnish-Volga Ural business.  But frankly, one of my favorite parts of my background doesn’t really get a fair shake from this chart; although I think genetically attributed to “British Isles,” my maternal grandmother was all Acadian.

If you don’t know what that means, here is a totally accurate history lesson: In the late 1600s, a bunch of French people came to Eastern Canada, called it Acadia, and proceeded to marry each other and the occasional Mi’kmaq for three hundred years. In the late 17oos, some of them were displaced to Louisiana, where “Acadians” became “Cajuns” and started experimenting with spicy foods. But MY people stayed the hell put, making more and more French-speaking Catholics and naming them all Joseph, Pierre, Marguerite or Marie.  Eventually some of the Pierres and Maries decided it was time to spread the genes apart and migrated to exotic locations like Massachusetts, where they married Irish Catholics with names like Patrick, Joseph, Brigid, and Mary. They made many children, mostly named Joseph and Mary. From there sprang my mother, who went totally off course and married a Lutheran (descended from people named Ole, Thea, and Anna Maria), and created the genetic mutt you have before you now. And one of my names is Mary.

So anyway, I basically knew this much due to a family book tracing my grandmother’s family history. But what I didn’t know is that I am not the only Acadian with an obsessive interest in genealogy. In fact, I think we all might have that in common. There are tons of websites (and even books) about this section of people and their progeny. My theory is that at some point, someone looked at all their neighbors in Prince Edward Island and said, “Why do we all have the same face?” Or perhaps they started to wonder just how far off the island they’d have to travel to find a non-cousin to marry. The Irish faced a similar dilemma, I think.

The point is, this made a lot of research pretty easy for me, since hundreds of people have already done the hard work. And as far as I can tell, I am related to Canada. And some others displaced Acadians, which brings us to:

I am related to Madonna and Ellen Degeneres and I learned about it through Phoebe from “Friends”

You’ve probably suspected for years now that I have the Fame and Fortune gene, but Valerie Cherish just proved it: Martin Aucoin is in their family trees, and he is also in mine. Although there’s room for error, it appears that Madge is my 10th cousin, and Ellen is actually my 7th through a different line.

If Ellen is reading this and would like to know about this other line, I’d be happy to come on your show and explain it. Madonna can come too, or we can just dance to Madonna songs. And scare Taylor Swift! I’m not related to Taylor Swift I just really like it when you scare her. We can also give money to people who deserve it because that is one of my favorite things and you seem to do that a lot, but it might have to be your money.

Get back to me.

Next time on Barely Related To Famous People: Cousin Biebs and His Twitter Army!

How does a vegetarian celebrate Turkey Day?

I’ve been a vegetarian for a stupidly long time. And stupidly is the right word choice here; I do not recommend it. I mean, if you are one for animal rights reasons or health reasons and it’s working out, that’s totally valid.*  But I am a vegetarian because I was a picky child. That’s it. My picky-ness just had a name that I liked saying to lunch ladies to make them think I was a smart six-year-old (we vegetarians are a notoriously snobby people), and I never grew out of it. Now, I spend a lot of time in dive bars surrounded by burgers and I love the smell of Dome Dogs, but if I try to eat meat I become immediately ill. After 24 years, my vegetarianism is essentially a food allergy.

Luckily, being a vegetarian has not interfered with my favorite past time: eating. There are so many delicious options out there for someone with an eclectic palate (I just pinned a recipe for kale quinoa pilaf and I am legit excited by it; how do I even have any friends). The world at large and the Cities in miniature are becoming more veggie-friendly. My friends and family are more or less used to me saying “Can I get that without bacon?” But there is this one time of year where it gets just a wee bit annoying.

This. This is that time. The week before Thanksgiving. People will talk about Thanksgiving or “Turkey Day” plans, and then shoot the vegetarian a look of pity. I call it the “Sad Turkey Side-Eye.”  Honestly, I don’t really think I’m missing out because Thanksgiving involves about fourteen side-dishes I can eat, and do (and how!). Also pie. So much pie. When I get the Sad Turkey Side-Eye, I find it best to respond with “I Will Be Eating Your Share Of Pie While You Are Taking an L-Tryptophan Nap” smirk.

I’d also just like to state, for the record, that I’ve never had Tofurkey.  I actually don’t know (or remember) what turkey tastes like. But I will not go near Tofurkey out of fear that it will taste like tofu, which I only enjoy if it’s completely masked by foods that taste like actual food.

tofurky package

If this looks appetizing to you, seek help.

Again, I’m totally cool just eating grandma’s jello salad and mom’s sweet potatoes and everyone’s pie. I am not missing out and neither, really, are the other vegetarians.**

Here’s the thing: Thanksgiving is not about turkey. It’s not even about pie. It’s about giving thanks for what we have, and I sure have a lot: a nice job, great family, wonderful friends, sweet apartment, lovely life, and the ability to turn my nose up at proffered food. This last one gets to me, particularly at this time of year, which is why I’m doing the Walk To End Hunger again this year. Thanksgiving morning, my mother and I will be up at the crack of dawn*** walking around the Mall of America. The funds we raise will be split among 12 local hunger charities.

Walk To End Hunger Logo

Half of us have far too much to eat on this one day, I am more than happy to continue; but let’s make sure every Minnesotan has enough to eat every day.

So how does a vegetarian celebrate Turkey Day? By confronting every Sad Turkey Side-Eye with a link to my fundraising page. By giving thanks. By Walking to End Hunger. And by eating the hell out of some pie.

*Unless you are a vegan. That is just crazy.
**Vegans are, though. Vegans are missing out on life.
***7 a.m. is the crack of dawn on holidays; also vegans are the worst.

Love your neighbor.

I dislike politics. I dislike most politicians, I dislike the political game, and I really, really dislike arguing about politics. But I’m going to talk about this because I have to, before it’s too late.

I’m talking about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. If you’re in Minnesota – hell, if you’re in the United States – you know the one. Come Tuesday, this is what will be on Minnesotans’ ballots:

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?

Yes…..
No …..

I hope it comes as no surprise that I’m voting No. I haven’t been as involved in the Minnesotans United for All Families campaign as many of my friends (no one has been as involved as my friends, I swear), partly because I’m busy and partly because I don’t really think me bursting into tears is what they want to happen at their phone banks, but I definitely want to see this amendment defeated.

I want to see this amendment defeated because it hurts people I love. It tells children I know who are being raised by gay parents that their family is not as good as another. It tells young people who are gay that they aren’t as good as their peers. And committed gay couples do not have access to the same rights and benefits as straight married couples.

Look, I know this is a complicated issue for many people. It isn’t for me, not anymore, but I’m trying to see it from all sides. I’ve read articles like this. And I’ve also seen ads like this. If you have too, I encourage you to watch videos like this and fact checks like this. I encourage you to find alternate viewpoints and see what resonates with you; have respectful dialogue, if you can. We’re all going to be the same friends, family, and neighbors on November 7th.

If this is still too murky for you, then abstain from voting on this issue. That’s okay. Just don’t vote yes unless you are damn sure that denying civil rights to a group of citizens is the right thing to do. Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota. So are “separate but equal” civil unions. Defeating this amendment actually changes nothing, but it lets the conversation continue, and it lets the world know that Minnesotans love their neighbors.

And that is really what it all comes down to for me.

I know I have friends and family who are voting yes. I still love you; I believe you still love me. I just needed you to know.

PS: if you haven’t seen or heard this yet and don’t hate everything I’ve said here, this will likely make you cry. Then hit replay.

Something Spooky Finale, Or: Happy Halloween!

Day 25: “Shadows and Spirits” at the Capitol

Ghost hunter Sabrina and I took a tour of the State Capitol, led by “spirits” and lit the way it was 100 years ago (which is to say: dimly). The tour guide/ghosts were great, and I learned some things (it was put on by the Minnesota Historical Society). I tried to take a picture of a sign that said “Please Do Not Lean On The Historical Table,” but was forbidden.

Spooky State Capitol

This was also forbidden, but I’m a rebel.

Day 26: “Caves and Graves” Tour around St. Paul

I’ve already mentioned that I love the Wabasha Street Caves. Gangsters AND ghosts? I’m on board. This tour started at the caves, where we were all released to ghost hunt through a couple of unfinished caves.

Wabasha Street Cave Candle

Then we loaded up on a bus and drove around St. Paul, learning some great macabre history of the town, like the story of William Williams (the last man executed in Minnesota) and Louis Arbogast (the oldest unsolved murder in St. Paul).

My interests are vast.

Day 27: St. Paul BOOs Crawl

This was essentially Halloween for the 20-something set, since who wants to bar-hop on a Wednesday? (Answer: lots of people, just not me) After doing slightly terrible things to Dorothy and Toto for Zombie Pub Crawl this year, I kind of made it up to them by doing this:

Desaturated Dorothy

Dorothy…before the rainbow.

Props to my friend/makeup artist Kelly for making us look like living photoshops.

Day 28: Pumpkin Lantern

Since I’m better with power tools than I am with knives, I decided to break out the drill and three bits and make my itty-bitty pumpkin into a luminary.

Pumpkin Luminary

I made a huge mess, and I can barely fit a tea light in there, but I like my tiny, dotty pumpkin.

Day 29: Treehouse of Horror

My dad recently gifted me with an antenna (and a new TV) so that he has something to look at when he comes to visit. I’m still getting used to having channels for the first time in over 4 years, but it came in handy while switching back and forth between SuperStorm Sandy coverage (consider donating to the Red Cross, blood or money!) and a rerun of a Simpsons episode.

Day 30: Facepainting at the YWCA

Am I an expert facepainter? Heavens no. But can I draw a ghost, a pumpkin, or something that vaguely resembles a cat onto squirmy, sugared up children who do not have immediate access to mirrors? Heck yes I can! And I can do it while dressed like a fairy princess.

Unfortunately, I can also forget I’m dressed like a fairy princess and accidentally wear a tutu into a deli, but that’s my challenge.

Day 31: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Today I dressed up as a princess again at work.  My mother makes tutus for toddlers, and “felt bad” she never made one for me as a toddler. So she made one for me now. Logic! This tutu is amazing. It pairs perfectly with my silver heels, which are impossible to walk in, so I’ve been hobbling around, leaving a trail of glitter in my totally graceful wake. Not a single person asked me to take my toy back to the caaaaahpet, but I did win a costume  contest.

Now I’m in costume number 4 for the month – some sort of generic witch devil, aka “everything black and red in my closet and a headband from Walgreens” – reminiscing about Halloween ’91 (as we Minnesotans like to do), and waiting impatiently for trick-or-treaters to arrive. I hope everyone has enjoyed October as much as I have!

BOOOOOooooooOOOOOOO!

Something Spooky 5, Or: Just a Little Hocus Pocus

(Again, parts one, two, three, and four)

Day 21: Spooky-Scary Music

I spent a bunch of time in the car on this day, so instead of searching for another episode of “This American Life” I went with a Halloween Pandora station. I kept waiting for this to play, but unfortunately it did not.

Day 22: It’s just a little Hocus Pocus

Real talk – what Halloween movie is better than “Hocus Pocus?” No movie. It’s the best. I’m not the first person to note this.

Jump to my favorite part at the :30 mark:

Seriously the best.

Day 23: Treat Yo Self!

First, I bought all the candy.

All the candy

All of it.

Then, thanks to a deep love of Donna and Tom from Parks and Recreation (and an idea I saw online), I propped these signs up in my candy bowls.

Treat Yo Self to Candy

Treat Yo Self to cavities

Then I tried not to eat all of the candy. I’m not going to say if I succeeded or not, but I will say it’s probably a good thing I’m walk/run/jogging the annual Step Out to Stop Diabetes 5k on October 27th.

Day 24: Halloween party/Clothes Swap

Whenever my closet gets overly full or I decide I need to spruce up my wardrobe, I throw a “clothes swap party.” This basically involves inviting a bunch of girls to come over and bring anything they want to donate to Goodwill to me instead. Then there’s a free-for-all of trying on, commenting on, and swapping clothes. Some people go home happy to have cleared space in their closets, some people go home happy to have added more to their wardrobes, and I stay home with a kitchen table that looks like this.

Clothes burying table

The leftovers will eventually go to Goodwill, but for now my apartment looks like it was hit by a clothing tornado. I cannot be bothered to care because LOOK AT THESE SHOES I HAVE NOW.

sparkly shoes

Oooh…a Sparkly! You’re wearing a Sparkly!

It was also Halloween themed party in the sense that my apartment looks like a creepy yet well-read witch lives in it (not far off). Several of my friends are already afraid of my apartment because I might have a ghost (I named him Dennis, because of course I did), so it really added to the ambiance when the light in my hallway started doing this just in time for my guests:

OooooOOOOOOoooooh! More ghost hunting coming up. If I see anything I’ll try to remember to turn the camera the right way first.

Something Spooky 3, Or: BRAAAAIIIINS

Part three of my self-imposed challenge to do something spooky every day of October.

Day 10: Listened to This American Life’s episode “The Call Was Coming From The Basement”

My two favorite reasons for October collided as I drove 90 miles to surprise my mother for her birthday while fitting in my Spooky activity: listening to a Halloween-themed episode of “This American Life.” That was pretty great, but not as great as surprising my ma. She is the best.

Day 11: The Haunted Basement at The Soap Factory

The Soap Factory in Minneapolis has gotten pretty infamous for its Haunted Basement, and with good reason. Sabrina and I went together for the first time three years ago, and it remains the best “haunted house”-type experience of my life.
This year’s was a close second. I screamed like a little girl and clutched strangers’ arms and at one point told a ghoulish man “You have lovely hair.” He didn’t. That was my actual knee-jerk response in a moment of panic.

Haunted Basement Entrance

Side note: Last year, I was actually part of the Haunted Basement for a night. I spent about eight hours dressed as a goblin, hopping in and out of coffins with terrified/confused strangers and growling things like “Come here often?”

So basically an average Saturday night for me.

Day 12: Saint Paul Art Crawl and “Toto Destruction”

I went to the St. Paul Art Crawl with one goal in mind: to pick up a “Brain Belt” print from the official Zombie Pub Crawl artist DWITT.

Brain Belt print by DWITT

I love his work in general, but add in zombies and beer and I can’t resist. Zombies and beer add value to everything.

Anyway, I got my Brain Belt print (and a few others), and really enjoyed being a dork around one of my favorite local artists and his wife. They are super nice, they gave me a beer and they think my name is Leslie. Overall a win!

Then Leslie went home and put the finishing touches on some zombie props…

Day 13-14: Zombie Pub Crawl

…because what’s Zombie Dorothy without her basket of munchkin heads?

zombie munchkin heads

They…represented…the Lollipop Guild.

And her companion, Zombie Toto!

Zombie Toto

I love “The Wizard of Oz,” so logically I did this to it:

This munchkin crossed me.

This was my fourth Zombie Pub Crawl (previous antics recorded here), because ZPC is basically the best event of the year. This might explain why I went nuts, starting at 6 and going from Minneapolis to St. Paul to Minneapolis to St. Paul, and was still not ready for it to be done 8 hours later (which is why I’m giving myself 2 days of Something Spooky from this one event). Highlights included:

– getting ready with Sabrina/Little Red Riding Hood
– seeing the Gin Blossoms at the Cabooze
– meeting a Zombie Fezzik (from The Princess Bride) at Zombie Island
– coming up with insults about DMX during the 1.5 hour wait for him to show up. You’re not Kanye, we’re not honored by your lateness. We’re getting on the bus to go back to Minneapolis and thinking nice thoughts about the Gin Blossoms.
– enjoying some Brain Belt
– this text message exchange

Alex Text

Alex!

– this photo with a Care Bear

Care Bear Zombie

Care Bear Stare indeed.

– and just general running around. Literally. Zombies aren’t supposed to run, but when I’m excited and have more than one beer in me I’m always about one second away from taking off in a sprint.  As in, “all of my friends are here I WONDER WHAT’S OVER THERE.” Like a dog.

Maybe I should have just gone as Toto.

Something Spooky, or: The Science of October

I love October. Not only were two of my best friends born this month (love you, Lacy and ma!), it is the first month that truly feels like fall, my favorite season. And, because this is Minnesota, it is also the only month that feels like that.

Best of all, October is the season of spooky. It’s my preference to look ridiculous at all times, so I love any excuse to wear a costume. I love history, and weird, macabre history is the best. And c’mon, I super love candy.

So in order to make the most of life, I’ve decided to challenge myself to do something spooky – every day in October. I’m calling it…wait for it…

Something Spooky.

(and your reaction to this reveal is…)

Day 1: (Re)watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2 episode, “Halloween.”

Look, I made up this challenge at about 9 pm on a Monday, so I had to start with what was available. Plus, what’s more fun than the episode of BtVS where the Scoobies become their costumes?

Day 2: Apartment Creep-ification Begins

I’m a dork (sentence could end there and still be true) for home decorating. I’m obsessed with Apartment Therapy and Young House Love and antique stores and artwork and crafting. Still, my Halloween decorating usually begins and ends with knocking down real cobwebs to hang fake ones. But not this year. This year, my 100-year-old-apartment is getting a haunting Halloween makeover.

Skull and webs

My new doorman

Books and Petals

“Spooky” books are essential to the decor

Please note that I do not have roommates, nor do I entertain guests all that often. I’m just doing this to creep myself out, I guess. There’s more to come, and some things will even be handmade. Blame Pinterest.

Day 3: Read a spooky story

I did not watch the debates, because I am not after a real “what is this world coming to” kind of terror. Instead, I reread one of my all-time favorite stories: “Lamb To The Slaughter” by Roald Dahl (part of the collection “Skin,” or you can read it online here). Oh, you didn’t realize your favorite children’s author also wrote creepy stories for adults? Do yourself a favor and check them out. Then re-examine your childhood.

Day 4: “Dead and Undead,” a Social Science Event at the Science Museum of Minnesota

I’m very lucky to have a wonderful and delightfully weird best friend who, when asked, “Instead of taking you out for a nice dinner for your birthday, what if I take you to a science museum and we learn about mummies and zombies?” immediately answered, “MUMMIFIED CHICKENS!”

The Science Museum of Minnesota occasionally has “Social Science” events for the 21+ crowd, and this week’s “Dead and Undead” event was a treat. Lacy and I:

Took this awesome picture in the Lost Egypt exhibit.

Fake camel photo bomb

Photobombed by a fake camel

Saw this guy sewin’ up a squirrel.

Taxidermy on a squirrel

Some people juggle geese.

Became ghosts.

Ghost Rachel

Boo!

Allowed professional makeup artists to do this to our faces.

Zombie face Rachel and Lacy

We later ordered a pizza and were so prepared to freak out the delivery guy. He did not react at all.  Apparently that delivery guy has seen some s***.

Did the “Thriller” dance up the stairs of a museum as zombies.

Lacy doing the Thriller at the Science Museum

‘Cause this is THRILLAAAAAAA!

And of course, saw this mummified chicken.

Mummified Chicken

No birthday is complete without a mummified chicken.

So much more to come. Something Spooky October has just begun! I’ve got a huge to-do list started, but suggestions are welcome. Any great Halloween-y activities out there I just must try?

The Minnesota Vikings, My Pops, and Me

I wrote this last year, but I’m updating and re-posting it in light of yesterday’s huge Vikings win.  I got to experience it in person, at MOA Field, with my pops. It was great – I am still hoarse from cheering, Pops almost clapped once, and the whole day was pretty much everything I love about being a Vikings fan.

I once theorized that my relationship with the Minnesota Vikings is not unlike my relationship with men (why yes, this theory was developed in a bar!): 1) I care very strongly for them; they are basically unaware I exist. 2) I am always looking for a good tight end; they are always looking for a horny blonde.

Vikings Fan

Like that.

3) Eventually I’m going to have to stop pinning all my hopes and dreams on men who wear purple and tight pants and chase each other. 4) And finally, it’s all my father’s fault.

From age 2-6, Bonding With Pops meant watching whatever action movie was on television while falling asleep on the couch. They have fused in my memory into one long action movie I like to call Crocodile Die Hard Jones and the Hunt for the Lethal Weapons Under Siege 2. From ages 7-12, Bonding With Pops meant getting outdoorsy and going camping and fishing. Sadly, this camping tradition ended about when my dad woke up to me burning an entire deck of cards, one at a time. I wish I was kidding; that is super creepy. Ever since, Bonding With Pops has simply involved sports, and it started with the Vikings.

Together, we watched the 1998-1999 season with as much pride (and then overwhelming despair) as the rest of the state, and despite that famous miss, I was hooked. In 2000, Pops took me to the Vikings training camp to watch a scrimmage. The facts say that I was fifteen at the time, but the memories suggest I was closer to seven. I was giddy to be there, with Pops, watching Cris Carter! Robert Smith! JOHN RANDLE! And we were in the front row, somehow; probably because Pops is early for everything (I did not inherit this trait), but at the time I was pretty sure it was because my dad was magic and/or secretly important. I thought this might be the case when he perked up at some announcement and said, “I think that’s my cousin Rod doing the announcing.”

Before I could say, “You have a cousin Rod and why aren’t we using this relationship to get VIP treatment?” The announcer said, “and here comes the quarterback, Cunningham. Uh, I mean Culpepper…” To which the crowd gave a little boo and Pops said, “Yep. That’s Rod alright.” I decided not to follow this lead after all.

Despite needing to be the first person in his seat that day, Pops couldn’t stay in it for long. He got us a bag of popcorn that (again, in my memory) was as big as me, and I was not a small kid. He also ran off and bought me a Cris Carter jersey. Again, I was not a small kid, but Pops overshot it a bit — to this day, we call that my “Cris Carter dress.” I loved it immediately.

After the scrimmage, we went to the autograph line. Pops plopped me next to the gate with my camera and my notebook and disappeared while I gawked, star-struck, as all the pros walked past me and the rookies stopped to sign autographs.

If you’re wondering what kind of father would leave his teenage daughter alone in a crowd like that, so was I. I finally brought this part of the memory up to my dad last week. “Where did you go?” I asked, thinking he ran away from the crowd to smoke. He stared at me. “I was right behind you,” he said. “I had a hand on each of your shoulders! Don’t you remember? You were the same height as Denny Green!” What kind of father would leave his teenage daughter alone in that crowd? Not mine. You’d think I’d remember being held in place by a large man, but no. There is no large man in my memory other than John Randle. I may be a terrible daughter with a foggy memory of one of the best days of my young life but eh! John Randle!

John Randle

Actual picture that I actually took of the actual John Randle. I am that bad of a photographer, and I was that excited. I’m still proud of this.

That was the last time my dad and I went to a scrimmage. Until yesterday, he did not even own any Vikings apparel (I bought him a purple hat – he’s actually lucky I didn’t buy him one of the helmets with horns), whereas I’ve upped the ante with a “cousin” Adrian Peterson jersey, Robert Smith jersey, Vikings sweatshirt, two or three purple pride t-shirts, and one of those sweet blonde-with-horns hats (I will fool you yet, men). I was banned from The Boys’ apartment after Favre threw the last interception of 2010 and I let out a guttural scream that scared the cats. I went to three games at the Dome last year (all losses). And I once picked a fight in New Orleans, with a Priest, because he was wearing a Drew Brees jersey.

To be a Vikings fan is to be stubborn and proud without reason.  I’m a HUGE Vikings fan, and it’s definitely all my father’s fault.

Love you, Pops.

SKOL VIKINGS!

Rachel and Pops